Common Book 2012: Author Sherman Alexie
The 2012 College of Education Common Book represents someting of a departure from previous selections. Sherman Alexie's young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, tells the story of a youth who growing up on the Spokane Indian reservation who–in striking contrast to his peers–makes the daily journey off the reservation to attend a white school in pursuit of an education, and a certain kind of success.
So why choose a work of fiction targeted to young adults for a text of communal inquiry? While The Diary might not, at first glance, seem to be a logical choice for a common book, the novel touches on many areas central to the vision of the College. It poses important questions about the significance of schooling in community and society, illuminating both its potentially empowering and its racializing dimensions. And it deals with a wide range of issues of acculturation– losses and gains, sacrfices as well as benefits.
The Diary also deals with issues of poverty and of growing up in the presence of alcoholism. And in its focus on Native American experience, Alexie's novel aligns with a significant interest of the College.
On Februrary 17, we were lucky to have Sherman Alexie address the College community in a free-wheeling lecture and discussion.